Beautiful Destruction; Louis Helbig.

 read this book. 


Snow Floes in Bitumen, Suncor South Tailings Pond, Fort McMurray, Alberta

“As an artist, it was simple child’s play to respond to this industrial landscape , utterly enormous in its scale and fantastical in its detail. It is a kaleidoscope of incredibly beautiful shapes, lines, movement, colour, smoke, dust clutter and calmness. Whatever opinions I might have reflexively harboured as a contrarian, to think and believe that this must be bad, melted into a heady, singular experience of simply responding without editorializing, to just see it for what it is, unfiltered. It was easy to respond with honesty, with integrity to this thing below. That first experience was jolting; the effort to record what I was seeing morphed, I think, into recording what I was feeling. 

I’ve come to believe that something else might be at work in Canadian society that could explain the rather sorry state of Canada’s affairs around the oil/tar sands. In contrast to any country I am aware of, Canada’s connection to its rural hinderlands and vast hinterlands is very abbreviated, by any measure.  The vast majority of Canadians, living in a thin, largely urban strip not far from the American border, have almost no knowledge and understanding of, no real or emotional connection to or respect and empathy for the much larger part of Canada’s landscape and the people and the culture it contains. 

If Canadians imagined themselves differently-and to my understanding more accurately- and truly incorporated all of their landscape into their identity, they would have a much better understanding of themselves. That, I believe, would provide a starting point for understanding, knowledge, empathy and respect that would itself be a starting point for engaging honestly on the oil/tar sands. 

My experience as an artist suggests that it is not just the oil/tar sands that lie largely uninterpreted. It shares that (lack of) distinction with much of the undulating, beautiful landscape which the oil/tar sands are part of- and which is most of the rest of Canada.”

Louis Helbig, 2014

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